I love Guardian's Jackie Ashley. Her commentaries are incisive, thought-provoking and poignant. When she delves into issues, her analysis is balanced and refreshingly optimistic. It is reassuring to know not all columnists are itching to bang the gavel judgmentally, condemning and acquitting 'culprits' in their articles.
In Monday's editorial Ashley tackled matters such as binge-drinking, the sexualisation of children and a sag in the reading culture. Her commentary was titled 'Yes, we can act against the corruption of our children's lives'. And she wrote, 'It is possible to turn back the booze culture, bring back some respect for women, ensure that children read well...'
Her piece was brilliant but it fell short of its objectives. The key remedy Ashley offered was government legislation is needed to combat the unremitting problem.
I will argue that the rise in negative social change is connected to the decline in religion. I believe at the root of the issue is a missing link which can be found in Freud's model of the self.
In Freud's model, the self is made up of the super-ego, ego and id. The id are desires we are born with. They are instinctual. The unconscious desires/drives to eat, sleep, enjoy sexual pleasure are inborn. But I also believe one of these inborn desires is the the desire to experience a transcendental connection.
People want to experience something extraordinary, something beyond themselves. And it is this desire for ultimate pleasure that drives them to explore avenues that might not necessarily be beneficial in the long run.
Unfortunately religion these days is brushed aside as 'the opium of the people' in Karl Marx's famous words. In its place is alcohol, romance, sex, shopping, video games etc.
And as long as that is the case, recycled news reports of a 'buy now pay later culture', binge-drinking, sexualisation of children and so on will carry on blighting the news agenda.
Various studies have explored ways people forge transcendental connections following the decline of religion after the Enlightenment. Daniel Miller (1998) argued shopping was not a mere act, it had cosmological foundations. I will not go into laborious detail about Miller's work. But it illustrates ways people reconfigure the transcendental and set up new forms of religion.
In order to stop the dip in morality I believe religion should not be brushed aside but actively encouraged. The government, media, organisations must no longer mute voices of morality. In the old days the society was much healthier, and religion had a place. Today the reverse is the case.
The big problem is, if we want our youths to behave properly we need to give them a model to follow. And that's the gap religion fills in.
Not that the government should coerce every member of the population into a religion. But it is about time to recognise talk alone will not suffice. If you want to curb social damage then people need a benchmark of morality. People need something to believe in. So fill in the moral vacuum and see if it makes a change.